Scripture reading – Jeremiah 29

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Jeremiah 29 – Jeremiah’s Letter to the First Captives in Babylon


The first deportations of Jerusalem’s leaders to Babylon occurred at the beginning of Zedekiah’s reign. From the Book of Daniel, we know that Nebuchadnezzar directed his leaders to steal away the finest youth of Judah, particularly those who were “of the king’s seed, and of the princes, 4Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans” (Daniel 1:3-4). That first group of Judean captives included “Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,” whom we will consider in a future study (Daniel 1:6).


The Recipients of Jeremiah’s Letter (Jeremiah 29:1-2) 

Though a prophet, Jeremiah evidenced the heart of a spiritual shepherd. Out of concern for the spiritual and emotional well-being of those who were taken to Babylon, Jeremiah sent a letter “from Jerusalem unto the residue [i.e., remnant] of the elders which were carried away captives” (Jeremiah 29:1).

Among the captives were “priests…prophets…Jeconiah the king, and the queen [i.e., the king’s mother], and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smiths” (Jeremiah 29:1-2; 2 Kings 24:12-16). In addition to the educated youth of Jerusalem, King Nebuchadnezzar also stole away the skilled artisans of the nation.

A Letter of Encouragement to Those in Captivity

A Letter of Encouragement to Those in Captivity (Jeremiah 29:3-7)

Using diplomatic carriers (29:3), Jeremiah sent his letter to captives living in Babylon. His letter was prophetic and communicated the words of “the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel” (Jeremiah 29:4a). He reminded the people that it was the LORD who purposed that they “be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon” (Jeremiah 29:4b).

Contrary to the words of the false prophets who proposed the captivity would be brief, Jeremiah’s letter, in effect, encouraged the captives to accept God’s will, and from a human perspective, “make the best of a bad situation” (Jeremiah 29:4-7). Jeremiah instructed the people to set their roots in Babylon, saying, “Build ye houses…plant gardens…Take ye wives…bear sons and daughters” (Jeremiah 29:5-6).

While some might have covertly encouraged defiance and insurrection, Jeremiah’s message was to “seek the peace of the city…and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7). 


Challenge – Don’t Believe the False Prophets’ Lies (Jeremiah 29:8-10)

The LORD commanded Jeremiah to warn the people that there were false prophets in their midst who prophesied lies. The prophet warned, “For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:9). Contrary to the false prophets’ prediction of a short captivity, Jeremiah foretold the captivity in Babylon would be 70 years, but assured the people the nation would one day return to the land the LORD had promised Israel (Jeremiah 29:10).

Hope: The Promise of Future Restoration

Hope: The Promise of Future Restoration (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

Though they were Nebuchadnezzar’s subjects and living in a heathen nation, Jeremiah encouraged God’s people with a beautiful, blessed truth: They were not beyond the LORD’s loving care. Imagine listening as the following excerpt from Jeremiah’s letter was read in public: 

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. 12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. 13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

What a blessed, wonderful truth for believers. Though you might be in difficult, trying circumstances, the LORD is sovereign and omniscient. He knows your sorrows, and when you pray and seek Him “with all your heart,” He promises we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).

Though far from home, the LORD promised He remembered His covenant promises. He assured them, “I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive” (Jeremiah 29:14).


Warning: False Prophets and Their Lies (Jeremiah 29:15-19)

False prophets in Babylon were giving the people false assurances regarding the future of Jerusalem. Lest some believe their lies, Jeremiah warned that Jerusalem and Judah would suffer many things before being taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 29:14-23). He urged the people to refuse the lies of the false prophets. He warned the people that the LORD would “send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence” (Jeremiah 29:17), and they would become the object of great sorrow (Jeremiah 29:18-19).


The Condemnation of Two False Prophets (Jeremiah 29:20-23)

In his letter to the captives in Babylon, Jeremiah not only warned of false prophets among them but boldly named and condemned them (Jeremiah 29:20-22). They had sinned against the LORD and His people. Those men who pretended to speak the word of the LORD were exposed for being adulterers and liars (Jeremiah 29:23). Therefore, the LORD declared, “Even I know, and am a witness, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:23).

The LORD hears and answers prayer

Shemaiah: A False Prophet’s Attack on Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:24-32)

Jeremiah concluded his letter by addressing a false prophet named Shemaiah, who lived among the captives in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:24-28). Shemaiah made accusations against Jeremiah and accused Zephaniah, the priest, of being lenient for his failure to imprison Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:24-27). He accused Jeremiah of lying and causing the people to despair (Jeremiah 29:27-28; note, Jeremiah 29:5-7).

“Zephaniah the priest” read Shemaiah’s letter to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:29). Then the LORD moved on Jeremiah’s heart to answer Shemaiah’s accusations in a letter to all the captives (Jeremiah 29:30). Exposing Shemaiah as a fraud and a liar, Jeremiah wrote, “Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he caused you to trust in a lie” (Jeremiah 29:31). Declaring God’s judgment, Jeremiah prophesied Shemaiah would suffer, and that his lineage would never see the blessings God had planned for His people. Why? Shemaiah had “taught rebellion against the LORD” (Jeremiah 29:32).


Closing thought

Believer, we are living in changing and troubling times. Fear, anxiety, and depression are rampant in our society, and I fear many believers find they are struggling with the same. Take heart, my friend, for the God who assured the captives of His loving care and omniscience is our LORD. His thoughts toward us are “thoughts of peace, and not of evil” (Jeremiah 29:11). When you pray, take comfort knowing the LORD hears and answers prayer (Jeremiah 29:12). However, remember that blessed promise comes with a condition:

You must be willing to turn from your sins, seek the LORD, and search for Him with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13). Take a moment to search your heart and confess any sin that hinders your seeking and finding the LORD. 

If you made that decision today, share that good news by emailing me at

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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